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Vera French expands mental health services in the Quad Cities

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and data shows that in 2021, nearly 50,000 Americans died by suicide, the highest since 2018.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Experts say the demand for more mental health services in the Quad Cities area is rising, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

News 8's Charles Hart spoke with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vera French Community Mental Health Center Richard Whitaker who said because of this rise in demand, they're expanding the Carol Center at 808 N. Harrison Street, Davenport, Iowa.

"Realizing that this is treatable," Whitaker said. "The message is that, we all as human beings, we have a part of us that is susceptible to mental illness. And, that experience is more and more common."

The US Department of Health and Human Services ranks Iowa 44th in the nation for the ratio of mental health providers to people who need them. This is less than two providers for every 1,000 persons.

In 2021, nearly 50,000 Americans died by suicide, and this is the highest since 2018. To put this in perspective, it's more than the population of Moline, Illinois.

Whitaker said they are seeing more people needing help, and more space is needed to fit this demand.

"We need more clinicians in the Quad Cities," Whitaker said. "More therapists, more prescribers, those doctors and nurse practitioners, physician assistants, who can help us meet the demand of mental health crises that are showing up all across the Quad Cities."

Carol Center director, Angi Tracy, says this expansion means everything. 

"It's more personal because we get to help a lot more people here," Tracy said. "It helps to have the expansion where we can have that space to continue helping those in need." 

Whitaker said right now, Vera French is able to help around 2,500 to 3,000 clients at any one time, and they're hoping the Carol Center expansion will allow for this number to grow. Vera French provides services regardless of ones ability to pay.

One resident, Errick Hunt, says his life changed since getting help at the Carol Center. 

"I was out in the streets and everything," Hunt said. "I got introduced to this place here and I'm doing fine now. I got a house and a good job. I'm doing terrific now because these people took care of me."

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and for anyone in need of immediate help, call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 9-8-8.

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